MICHAEL MOORCOCK'S LEGENDS
OF THE MULTIVERSE
Edited by Jean-Marc Lofficier
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
Michael Moorcock's Eternal Champion novels had a huge influence on the field and it seems like every few years an anthology of stories celebrating Moorcock's creations is published. The Nature of the Catastrophe, mostly focusing on Jerry Cornelius, appeared in 1971, Elric: Tales of the White Wolf was published in 1994 following by Pawn of Chaos: Tales of the Eternal Champion in 1996. In 2006 the French anthology Elric et la porte des mondes was published. Many of the stories appearing in that volume, as well as some original stories, were collected for the 2017 anthology Michael Moorcock's Legends of the Multiverse, edited by Jean-Marc Lofficer, featuring stories about a variety of Moorcock's characters, as well as two stories by Moorcock, himself.
"The Affair of the Bassin des Hivers," by Michael Moorcock was originally written for the Tales of the Shadowmen series, also published by Black Coat Press, and which creates a massaive shared universe using French heroes of popular literature. The story, which is a mystery involving some of Moorcock's original characters as well as his take on other creations that have influenced him, is an excellent introduction to the stories that follow, which treat Moorcock's own literary creations as their jumping off point, and some of which also were originally published in the Tales of the Shadowmen. It sets the tone for the stories which follow.
Matthew Baugh's “The Garden of Everything” unfortunately demonstrates one of the issues with writing about Moorcock's characters, especially those whom Moorcock has chronicled in depth. Baugh explores an episode in the life of Prince Corum Jhaelen Irsei, whose story has been told in two trilogies. Set at some point during the first trilogy, when Corum wore the Eye of Rhynn and the Hand of Kwll, he finds himself separated from his companion, Jhary-a-Conel in what appears to be a pocket universe, where he falls in love and has a daughter. While the story works well on its own, it doesn't fit with the overarching biography of Corum's life that Moorcock has described, so Baugh is forced to find a way to undo the consequences of his story.
Pierre Bordage overcomes the issue that plagued Baugh in "The Archivist," where he creates an Elric analog living in more modern times. His albino is raised in an unloving and even hostile environment and eventually gets a job working as an archivist for a variety of companies. There are very clear connections to Elric throughout the story, which Bordage expands upon as the story comes to its conclusion, offering an intriguing view of what Elric living in our modern world might become.
Richard Canal does an excellent job channeling Moorcock in "The Child of the Future," set near the end of Elric's career. Pulled from his semi-retirement, Elric finds himself trying to save a young girl, the Child of Destiny, from creatures of Chaos unleashed by the Gods of Entropy. Elric learns that the child can see the future and the Gods hope that if they kill her, that future will not come to pass. Canal does an excellent job looking at the concept of fate and whether it can, or should, be avoided and does so with a story the would fit well into the original story style.
Fabrice Colin writes the story of a woman and her husband who travel to the Young Kingdom's so she can have a sexual adventure with Elric in "Eulogy for The Abyss Fish." The story is told from multiple viewpoints, including those of Elric, the woman's cuckolded husband, and others, although never from the protagonist's point of view, making her strangely passive even as she institutes most of the activity in the story. This distancing device also makes it clear that no matter how in control she thinks she is, larger events are moving around her to make things happen.
Elric has gone on many dreamquests, which may o may not happen to his physical body. John Davey describes one in "An Organ of Bones" that clearly only happens in Elric's subconscious mind, but does have very clear real repercussions. Davey manages to capture Moorcock's voice well and gives Elric a tour of his various lost loves and history, showing Cymoril, Zarozinia, Myshella, his parents, and more. Set within a framing device of Una Persson's Time Centre, it also explicitly links Elric to Jerry Cornelius' world.
Paul Di Filippo offers an Elric story as a parallel to to emergence of e-books in "The Stealer of Marketshare," in which Arioch pairs Elric up with Primella the Amazon to stop the spread of a new non-print publishing technology being advanced by Myshella and Donblas. A slight and unserious tale, the powers of law seem to represent both the traditional publishers and the emerging technology even as Arioch hopes to control the emerging technology and ensure the pricing is more fair than what Donblas is offering.
Interestingly, Elric does not have the same continuity issues that Corum does. In "The Music of Souls," Johan Heliot places Elric, only called the Albino, but wielding Stormbringer, into 1950s England at the birth of British rock and roll. Stormbringer takes the form of the Albino's guitar as it sucks the music of souls from performers in an attempt to give the Albino the energy to return to his world. Because Elric's fault memory (and treating many of his adventures as dreams) is an established part of the character, this works quite well as he meets his chronicler, Mike Moore.
Not only does Travis Hiltz bring together Oswald Bastable and Manfred von Bek, both intrepid balloonists, but also mixed in Antoine Gergre from Alfred Driou's Aventures d'Un Aeronaute Parisien dans les Mondes Inconnus in "War on the Moon," as well as H.G. Wells' Professor Cavor from The First Men in the Moon for a cross-dimensional story of a battle on the moon that can only be resolved by the three balloonists. Hiltz's story has a bit of kitchen sink quality to it and presumes knowledge of all the source material for depth, while implying a sequel as well. As it happens, a translation of Driou's novel was published by the current volume's publisher in 2011.
As the Conjunction of the Spheres nears in "J.C. in Alphaville," by Jean-Marc Lofficier and Randy Lofficier, Jerry Cornelius is brought in to take care of Natasha von Braun, whose father, Count Orlok (from the film Nosferatu) is part of a cabal of evil (with Metropolis's Rotwang, the title character from M., and Ohisver Mueller) is trying to bring the world's end to fruition and each establish their own dystopias. As with other stories in the volume, this one draws from a variety of pop culture sournces, with Orlok/von Brauns dystopia coming from Jean-Luc Goddard's film. This type of conglomeration frequently fails because the source material is too disparate and can only be reconciled by the acceptance of Moorcock's concept of the multiverse.
In yet another crossover to a different world, Xavier Maumejean introduces Elric and Moonglum to a familiar world in "Qayin," in which the forces of Law are preparing for the destruction of an entire lineage that flouts the established rules. Although Elric is warned that it isn't his fight, he defends the targets of Law. The story takes on additional meaning due to the very familiarity the reader has with Maumejean's source material.
In "Brother of the Hyenas," Christian Vila offers an Elric living a subsistance life in the frozen north, coming across a territorial band of nomads upset with what they view as his poaching, but the story takes a deeper dive into Morcockian lore as it is revealed that the nomads are in thrall to the very man Elric is tracking...Jerry Cornelius, although the promised showdown between the two champions never quite occurs.
The next tale, "Heart of Ice," by Daniel Walther is also set in the tundra and features Elric, Moonglum, and four warriors making their way through the events to help Elric achieve his destiny of deflowering a virgin priestess before teh woman can be given to a grotesque demigod. Although sex has always played a role in Moorcock's stories, this one does feel like a gratuitous and complex booty call.
John Davey returns with a story of Dorian Hawkmoon set after the main events of The Quest for Tanelorn in "Death of a Dark Ship." Hawkmoon and Yisselda are attempting to return to the Kamarg with their children when they have another encounter with the Dark Sheip and its Captain. As with the earlier "An Organ of Bones," Davey gets the voice right as Hawkmoon's family deals with what fate has planned for them while hoping to regain the Kamarg and be reunited with their loved ones.
Given Moorcock's importance in the creation of the New Wave, it is not suprising that some of the stories are more experimental in nature. "Stormbringer," by Tony White has a straightforward title that would seem to indicate it is focused on Elric's soul-sucking weapon, but in reality the piece is an almos stream-of-conscious rambling about a walk though the Scottish coast, musing on travels as a bird and considerations of who imagines himself in different roles, including Moorcock's albino.
It has been several decades since I read Moorcock's novel The Sundered Lands, and I must admit to not remembering much except that it is a science fiction novel. Ehrich Weiss' “Renark's Dream,” however, doesn't really require the reader to remember much about Renard von Bek's adventures since it is mostly set at a time when he was a young boy. Moorcock's version of the Eternal Champion almost always focuses on the mature period of the hero's life. Weiss has explored Renark's youth and what happened to him years before the Blood Red Game, offering a glimpse into a secret passion of the character.
Tony White writes about an author who is clearly based on Moorcock, discussing how he got his start due to his ability to quickly write novels in a single draft in "The Jet Set Girls." His novelist finds himself hanging out with characters clearly meant to be the denizens of Moorcock's Jerry Cornelius stories, or, perhaps, the prototypes that White's fictional author will turn into the Jerry Cornelius characters. White does a good job putting creating a milieu for his Moorcock analog that is both mundane and fully evokes the world of Jerry Cornelius.
Although written by Moorcock, "The Icon Crackdown" suffers from the same issues as many of the Jerry Cornelius stories, a series of short, barely connected vignettes full of inconsequential, yet highly significant conversations between characters who know each other well enough to have their own conversational shorthand which can leave readers feeling separated from the characters and their situations.
To stories in Michael Moorcock's Legends of the Multiverse are a somewhat mixed bag, with the strongest stories successfully capturing Moorcock's sensibilities. While Elric and Jerry Cornelius are the most popular targets, the inclusion of Hawkmoon and Corum are welcome and Oswald Bastable, Manfred von Bek, and Renark show a deep dive into Moorcock's works which are often missing from these sorts of anthologies. Moorcock's fans will find a lot to like in the book, between (and including) the pop culture winks the authors give.
|Michael Moorcock||The Affair of the Bassin des Hivers|
|Matthew Baugh||The Garden of Everything|
|Pierre Bordage||The Archivist|
|Richard Canal||The Child of the Future|
|Fabrice Colin||Eulogy for The Abyss Fish|
|John Davey||An Organ of Bones|
|Paul Di Filippo||The Stealer of Marketshare|
|Johan Heliot||The Music of Souls|
|Travis Hiltz||War on the Moon|
|Jean-Marc Lofficier and Randy Lofficier||J.C. in Alphaville|
|Christian Vilà||Brother of the Hyenas|
|Daniel Walther||Heart of Ice|
|John Davey||Death of a Dark Ship|
|Ehrich Weiss||Renark's Dream|
|Tony White||The Jet Set Girls|
|Michael Moorcock||The Icon Crackdown|
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